It's crazy for a group of mere mortals to try to design 15
percent of the U.S. economy. It's even crazier to do it by August.
Yet that is what some members of Congress presume to do. They
intend, as the New York Times puts it, "to reinvent the nation's health care
Let that sink in. A handful of people who probably never even
ran a small business actually think they can reinvent the health care
Politicians and bureaucrats clearly have no idea how complicated
markets are. Every day people make countless tradeoffs, in all areas of
life, based on subjective value judgments and personal information as they
delicately balance their interests, needs and wants. Who is in a better
position than they to tailor those choices to best serve their purposes? Yet
the politicians believe they can plan the medical market the way you plan a
Leave aside how much power the state would have to exercise over
us to run the medical system. Suffice it say that if government attempts to
control our total medical spending, sooner or later, it will have to control
Also leave aside the inevitable huge cost of any such program.
The administration estimates $1.5 trillion over 10 years with no increase in
the deficit. But no one should take that seriously. When it comes to
projecting future costs, these guys may as well be reading chicken entrails.
In 1965, hospitalization coverage under Medicare was projected to cost $9
billion by 1990. The actual price tag was $66 billion.
The sober Congressional Budget Office debunked the reformers'
cost projections. Trust us, Obama says. "At the
end of the day, we'll have significant cost controls," presidential adviser
David Axelrod said. Give me a break.
Now focus on the spectacle of that handful of men and women
daring to think they can design the medical marketplace. They would empower
an even smaller group to determine for millions of diverse Americans
which medical treatments are worthy and at what price.
How do these arrogant, presumptuous politicians believe they can
know enough to plan for the rest of us? Who do they think they are? Under
cover of helping uninsured people get medical care, they live out their
megalomaniacal social-engineering fantasies putting our physical and
economic health at risk in the process.
Will the American people say "Enough!"?
I fear not, based on the comments on my blog. When I argued last
week that medical insurance makes people
indifferent to costs, I got comments like: "I guess the 47 million people
who don't have health care should just die, right, John?" "You will always
be a shill for corporate America."
Like the politicians, most people are oblivious to F.A. Hayek's
insight that the critical information needed to run an economy or even 15
percent of one doesn't exist in any one place where it is accessible to
central planners. Instead, it is scattered
piecemeal among millions of people. All those people put together are far
wiser and better informed than Congress could ever be. Only markets
private property, free exchange and the price system can put this
knowledge at the disposal of entrepreneurs and consumers, ensuring the
system will serve the people and not just the political class.
This is no less true for medical care than for food, clothing
and shelter. It is profit-seeking entrepreneurship that gave us birth
control pills, robot limbs, Lasik surgery and so many other good things that
make our lives longer and more pain free.
To the extent the politicians ignore this, they are the enemy of
our well-being. The belief that they can take care of us is rank
Who will save us from these despots? What Adam Smith said about
the economic planner applies here, too: The politician who tries to design
the medical marketplace would "assume an authority which could safely be
trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever,
and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had
folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it."